Muscle Is Turning Dreams Into Reality

Bridget Sloan balance beam Florida Gators gymnastics

“I had goals and there were things I wanted to accomplish…I wasn’t going to let an injury stop me from turning my dreams into reality.”

Bridget Sloan

Activities: Gymnastics, CrossFit, Fitness

Social Media: IG- @bridgetsloan

Career: 2008 Olympian, NCAA Gymnast Florida Gators, ESPN Commentator

Career Accomplishments: Competitive History below

  • Silver medal- (Uneven Bars) 2003 US Challenge
  • Silver medal- (All- Around) 2006 International Gymnix
  • Silver medal- (Balance Beam) 2006 International Gymnix
  • Bronze medal- (Vault) 2006 International Gymnix
  • Bronze medal- (Balance Beam) 2006 US National Championships
  • Bronze medal- (All- Around) 2007 Houston International
  • Gold medal- (Team) 2007 USA-Great Britain Friendly
  • Bronze medal- (Floor) 2007 USA-Great Britain Friendly
  • Gold medal- (All- Around) 2007 US Classic
  • Bronze medal- (Vault) 2007 US Classic
  • Silver medal- (Uneven Bars) 2007 US Classic
  • Bronze medal- (Balance Beam) 2007 US Classic
  • Bronze medal- (Floor) 2007 US Classic
  • Silver medal- (Floor) 2007 US National Championship
  • Bronze medal- (All- Around) 2007 Good Luck Beijing International
  • Silver medal- (Floor) 2007 Good Luck Beijing International
  • Bronze medal- (Uneven Bars) 2007 Toyota Cup
  • Bronze medal- (Floor) 2007 Toyota Cup
  • Gold medal- (Team) 2008 Italy-Spain-Poland-USA Friendly
  • Bronze medal- (Uneven Bars) 2008 US National Championships
  • Silver medal- (Team) 2008 Olympic Games- Beijing, China
  • Gold medal- (All-Around) 2009 World Championships – London, England
  • Silver medal- (Team) 2010 World Championships- Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Gold medal- (Team) 2010 Pacific Rim Championships- Melbourne, Australia
  • Gold medal- (Team) 2011 Pan American Games- Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Gold medal- (Team) 2013 NCAA National Championships- Los Angeles, California
  • Gold medal- (All-Around) 2013 NCAA National Championships- Los Angeles, California
  • Gold medal- (Balance Beam) 2013 NCAA National Championships- Los Angeles, California
  • Silver medal- (Uneven Bars) 2013 NCAA National Championships- Los Angeles, California
  • Gold medal- (Team) 2014 NCAA National Championships- Birmingham, Alabama
  • Gold medal- (Uneven Bars) 2014 NCAA National Championships- Birmingham, Alabama
  • Gold medal- (Team) 2015 NCAA National Championships- Fort Worth, Texas
  • Silver medal- (Vault) 2015 NCAA National Championships- Fort Worth, Texas
  • Silver medal (Uneven Bars) 2015 NCAA National Championships- Fort Worth, Texas
  • Gold medal- (All- Around) 2016 NCAA National Championships- Fort Worth, Texas
  • Gold medal- (Balance Beam) 2016 NCAA National Championships- Fort Worth, Texas
  • Gold medal- (Uneven Bars) 2016 NCAA National Championships- Fort Worth, Texas
Uneven Bars routine 2009 World Championships

Song: One of Them Girls- Lee Brice

I love sports. It doesn’t matter if I am participating, or spectating, I love sports. As a participant, the Adrenaline rush competition brings, executing moves which I’ve practice over and over again that seem so familiar, I can do them with my eyes closed; yet in the back of my mind cognizant that something as small as a fraction of a second or point will determine my fate, is the ultimate driving forces to move with agility, precision, and skill . As a spectator, understanding the level of athleticism required for proper execution… witnessing the elite human body in motion creates a different level of excitement for me. You see, I watch sports for movement more so than competition. I have always plugged into the human body in motion since I was a child.

Gymnastics has always been a favorite to view, so I knew I wanted to interview an accomplished Elite gymnast for MCBMI. So I cast a wide net and with the help of someone I admire greatly, I was able to catch an interview with Bridget Sloan. When I think of great gymnasts, I think of what they have contributed to the world of gymnastics. I think of titles earned, medals won, but most importantly, how their contribution to the sport, shaped it for the better for future competitors. I believe Bridget Sloan is one of the greats because she is the only woman ever to win U.S., World, and NCAA championships. in the all-around. Accomplishing that feit sends a message to future gymnasts that once you’ve reached the peak of Elite gymnastic, neither your life, nor competition has to be over. It is proof and encouragement to have a plan that reaches beyond Elite competition. I truly do believe Bridget is a testament that setting goals and staying the course, can turn dreams into reality.

I hope you read, watch, and enjoy this interview. Thank you Bridget for the interview, and thank you Dave Durante for the introduction.

Q: As a child, when did you realize you loved gymnastics?

I believe It  was when I was six or seven and my mom asked me if I wanted to play soccer and gymnastics. My response was “I will play soccer if you want me to but I really want to do gymnastics” 

Q:  What did you know you had a shot at being an Elite gymnast?

I was in 3rd  grade when I wrote down I wanted to be a vet, an Olympian, and go to Purdue.

Q:  Explain the different levels of gymnastics?

The levels within the Junior Olympic program, which is what I grew up with, began at level five and went to level 10. There are a lot more levels now. After level 10, if you wanted to continue you were considered an Elite Gymnast, which means you were now competing for a spot on the national team. National Team members competed internationally and they also could try for the Olympics, Worlds, etc. 

Q:  What sacrifices did you make to compete at the Elite level?

Ultimately I was very fortunate and my family did not have to make any extreme sacrifices. My parents moved to Pittsboro IN when I was four and they have yet to move. I went to public school, my gym was 25 minutes away, and I would have to say I had a relatively normal upbringing. My parents never moved for my gymnastics, which is very common in most sports if you are at the elite level. 

I would say the biggest sacrifice was the fact that I always had practice and I could never really hangout with my friends 

Q:  Estimate how many Elite gymnasts are there across the country? How many of them make the US team? How many go to the Olympics?

Oh god…I truly have no idea but if I had to give an educated guess, I would say there are maybe a couple hundred elite gymnasts and during my time as an elite athlete the national team was made up of 13 juniors and 13 seniors – in 2008 my team was a team of six.

Bridget Region 5 Elite chasing Olympic dream

Q:  What was your first injury? What made you continue with gymnastics.?

Again I was very fortunate, I did not have many major injuries but I sprained my ankle pretty badly on vault when I was 14 and the reason I continued with gymnastics was, I had goals and there were things I wanted to accomplish…I wasn’t going to let an injury stop me from turning my dreams into reality. 

Q:  Talk about body developments and changes over the years and how it affected you mentally and physically in the sport if at all?

Oh, this question is definitely something that is never talked about but needs to become a normal question/topic. Growing up I was always very muscular and strong. I was what some would have called, “strong and mighty.” I didn’t even start having periods until I was 17 and they were like every four months. My body never really had any major changes until I got to college… which is where I grew up and started growing into my “girlish figure”. My freshman year was a year of changes, I all of a  sudden had boobs, I had love handles. I mean I really changed… but it didn’t affect me mentally although I will say I had to adjust and figure it out physically because gymnastics is a sport that is very hard on your body and it is also judged. Your success in gymnastics is based on judges judging you, so naturally I am my biggest critic when it comes to my body and learning to love my body took a very long time. I think that is the biggest hurdle, it was learning to love my body AND realizing that changes are normal. I mean before I went to college, I was 120 pounds of lean muscle and minimal body fat.  

Q: When you retired from elite competition, were you mentally ready, or did you think,”maybe just one more year?”

I was mentally checked out, I can’t say I retired on my terms but I was definitely ready to be done.

2009 Tyson Cup Vault

Q:  On the outside of the gymnastics world, looking in, we often forget, because of the amazing abilities, that the athletes are not adults but children. We treat them as adults, so many appear to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. What effect can that have on someone so young with so many demands?

It is exhausting. I mean I think the biggest down fall for a gymnast is that the success comes so early and if they do not have the support they need to feel appreciated and loved…it can really take a toll on the athlete

World’Championships 2009 Floor routine

Q: What are the biggest differences in today’s gymnasts and when you were competing?

Social Media. Social media was not really around when I was competing in elite, I mean I think it was on the rise but that has completely changed the game… for the better and some not. Also the skill these athletes have is just so amazing. They are doing skills that seem humanly impossible…yet they make it look effortless 

Q: You majored in Communications, and you do commentary for NCAA Collegiate Gymnastics, would you ever want to be a coach? Why, or why not?

I would absolutely coach… in college. I would love to eventually be a college coach. But I am also very happy I am on the other side and working for ESPN because it has given me a whole new appreciation for the sport. Talking to college coaches is one of the favorite parts of the job as an analyst. 

Q:  If you could go back to the beginning of your gymnastics career, what is the one thing you would do differently, if anything?

I don’t think I would do anything differently.

Q: How does Collegiate gymnastics differ from Elite gymnastics?

Night and day, I always tell people elite for me was very individualized. Yes, I had teammates but I always competed by myself and practiced a majority of the time by myself. In college, you have 14 girls who have your back. You live with them, train with them, have class with them… they become your family. Also the atmosphere in college is absolutely electric. I mean you get 13,000 people in an arena all cheering for you and supporting you!

Bridget Freshmen year NCAA Gymnastics UCLA

Q:  You have accomplished a lot in your gymnastics career: five years as an elite gymnast, Team silver medal in 2008 Olympics, All around gold medal at the 2009 World Championships, 2010 team silver medal for Worlds, Team gold medal in the 2010 Pacific Rim Games, Team gold medal at the 2011 Pan-American Games, and three team, two all-around, five individual gold medals, and three individual silver medals during your college career. Accomplishing all of that and then walking away, did you question if there was life after gymnastics?

I definitely knew there was life after gymnastics, but the hardest part was figuring out what that life would be like. Gymnastics was my life for 20 years, and then it just ended. I graduated, and it was no longer in my life.  You have to decide do you want to completely get away from the sport, do you want to be involved as a coach, do you want to be involved in different ways like traveling around camps and or working for a network as a commentator? I was very aware and accepted the fact that my career would end at some point.

Q:  I ask that because a lot of young girls spend so many years climbing this mountain, putting their all into it, and once they get to the top, they feel there’s nothing left, and they spiral down. Did you ever feel like that? If so, what lifted you back up?

I had bad days and good days, .but I just knew I had goals to accomplish and I was not going to let someone else take them from me. I think goal setting is so important for anyone no matter what they are doing. There is always something to improve which I think it why I never had that “spiral down” feeling 

Q:  What have you taken up, if anything to stay active?

I do crossfit now and I also will do just about any type of workout. I love fitness, it has always been an outlet for me to relieve stress, and just makes me feel good 

Bridget loves to work out!

Q: What advice would you give young girls and their parents, who want to compete at an Olympic level?

Be smart. I think athletes have the most success when they are the ones in control. This is their dream not their parents, and if it is their parents dream, and not the athletes the kid is going to get burnt out. Getting to the Olympics does not happen overnight. My Olympic dream started when I was 10 and I made the Olympics at 16. 

Q:  2021 will be the first Olympic games since the sex scandal, and the restructuring of the US Gymnastics program. Do you think more former gymnasts will step up and into roles of authority to help protect the generations to come and remove the stigma of abuse that is now associated with US Gymnastics?

With my position in the sport I can’t answer this, but I know my friends who work within USA Gymnastics are extremely passionate about their roles in order to bring back the positivity USA Gymnastics had in the past and deserves.

Q: Give me a favorite song, or something you like to listen to?

I like almost all music, these days I listen to a lot of country and a lot of EDM 

Q: Do you have a healthy meal you like to eat? If so, please give me the recipe?

I wish I was a better cook but all my recipes I get from my mom because she is an amazing cook